The Travel Issue: South Africa in February

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Years ago, when I was still trying to save the world (rather than just writing about other people who do) I worked on a charity project in Namibia with this really annoying bloke called Jon, who had this really annoying phrase.

"TIAB," Jon would say. It was his cure-all for anyone's grumbles. If you had sand in your food, 85 mosquito bites on the same eyeball, Ebola or a black mamba in your sleeping bag, that's what he would always say. "Hey, dude: TIAB," sometimes accompanied by a "soothing" hand on the shoulder. Rage! The thought still makes me twist about in my chair with irritation, eight years later.

Anyway, TIAB stands for "This Is Africa, Baby" and although Jon was an annoying twit, his philosophy was sound: take Africa as it is (wild, hot, disorganised) rather than how you might like it to be (tidy, grateful, passive).

It's a philosophy that CC Africa, top-end safari-lodge company, takes seriously. In 1992 the company bought an area of northern South Africa called Phinda and let it revert from pineapple farms and pasture back to rambling bush. They re-introduced game and then built a handful of luxury lodges; 80 per cent of their staff (some of whom are HIV positive) come from local villages and are paid a decent wage and have access to healthcare. Their conservation programmes are copied by game reserves all over Africa and, in partnership with the charity Africa Foundation, part-fund the building of classrooms, medical and technology centres. It's all working so well that they have expanded all over Africa and are moving into India.

They really do do all this good stuff; it's not just window dressing and clever talk. I won't go on about it because I've only got 800 words and I want to talk about elephants and monkeys, but the contribution CC Africa makes to their society and to conservation is good, it's wholehearted and it's working. Most important, they let Africa be Africa.

It's a jolly good thing that it's all so humanitarian and responsible because otherwise I don't see how one could stay at one of these lodges without feeling like a fat, white, colonial rapist. Huge spotless rooms with beds big enough to sleep six, both an indoor and outdoor shower, a plunge pool and a private veranda, overlooked by only the sky.

And then there are the animals. The lodge has a policy that no guest should venture out alone after dark. "Yeah, yeah," I scoffed, as if I were Crocodile Dundee. But my bravado crumbled to dust when I got to my room and found three large, curly-horned shaggy deer-type creatures (whose proper name I now forget) two feet from the French doors, a monitor lizard the size of a Labrador sunning himself on the veranda and a monkey on the windowsill staring at me, picking at its bottom. I carelessly left my door open the first afternoon as I snoozed and woke up to find three monkeys passing round my bar snacks, the expedition no doubt led by the bottom-picker. Apart from the fence surrounding the reserve – to stop the elephants trampling on people's houses – there are no barriers around the lodges to prevent, like, leopards coming into your room if you leave the door open. Luckily I'd learnt my lesson with the monkeys. But my point is that no, I didn't go out after dark by myself.

Eight hours of game driving a day might sound excessive, but there's not a great deal to do in the bush apart from read, sleep and drink. The first drive leaves at five, returning for breakfast at nine and the second drive leaves at four, returning for dinner at eight. The rangers – vast, white-blond Afrikaaners – know the reserve like I know my local branch of Oddbins. "Yar we just un time for elliphunts," said Philip, my ranger, one evening at about 6pm as we pulled up next to an empty dam. "They cam to drrrink abart now." We turned to look and on cue not one but two herds of elephants came kicking through the trees, swayed down to the edge of the water and started to drink. And then they went for a swim. They rolled around and waved their feet and trunks in the air in a way I've never even seen on TV. How did Philip know? Is he really that in tune with the animals? Or was it just a guess? Whatever, it was awesome.

A four-night package including return flights with British Airways, transfers and domestic flights, on an all-inclusive basis, costs from £1850 per person. Exsus Travel, 020-7292 5050, www.exsus.com

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
News
people
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Day In a Page

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches